He never dreamt of life behind bars. He wanted to study hard and become a better person. However, Nima Tshering was detained for almost two years at the Youth Development and Rehabilitation Centre (YDRC) for robbery in 2013.
He lost his father at an early age and his mother avoided him since then. He was brought up under the care of his grandmother. The officials from YDRC helped him continue his study at Dechencholing Higher Secondary School after the rehabilitation. However, the happy moment of the young school-going boy was short-lived.
“I was unfortunate. I lost my grandmother. I couldn’t control my stress of losing her. There was no one to guide me. I was into alcohol use by then and later I found myself locked up,” said Nima Tshering, who is now 22.
It was in the cold winter of the year 2014 that Nima Tshering was caught again by police for breaking vehicle glass drunk. He was detained for 18 months for the mischief.
Today Nima Tshering along with his two other friends who were in conflict with law, runs a small juice stall at the Centenary and Coronation Park located along the banks of Wangchhu River in Thimphu.
The juice stall was set up by an initiative of recently registered civil society organisation called Nazhoen Lamtoen to help children and youth in conflict with the law.
The organisation also aims to support children in difficult circumstances and youth at the risk and youth who are underprivileged and vulnerable. The organisation was officially registered with Civil Society Organisation Authority on September 7, 2017.
Executive Director of Nazhoen Lamtoen, Thinley Tobgay, said that children in difficult circumstances without proper care and support come in conflict with laws. “They end up serving terms in juvenile centers and prisons at an early age. We felt the need to support and give them guidance before getting into crime,” he said.
Thinley Tobgay and two other friends conducted a nationwide survey on suicide prevention in 2013. They moved from place to place fighting the stigma attached to substance users and made people aware of the ill effects of drugs and alcohol use. They presented talks on the cause of suicide, and its signs and symptoms.
The team came across children using drugs at an early age. They listened to the story of an underage girl who attempted suicide as her stepfather sexually harassed her. In some part of Zhemgang, they encountered children whose parents were divorced.
These children were left without proper care and education. Children who had parents did not have good financial status. “We did not see a good future in those children. Children were vulnerable and without any support and services, they could soon come in conflict with the law,” said Thinley Tobgay.
After returning from their nationwide survey, they realised the need to support youth in difficult circumstances and a solution to stop youth going into prison repeatedly. The idea gave birth to the recently registered organisation called Nazhoen Lamtoen.
The team initially started their support services on a voluntary basis.
Today there are 21 youth and children who are in conflict with the law and those in difficult circumstances are supported by the organisation. The organisation help youth continue studies, and support them find jobs. They provide counselling and skill development training to those released from YDRC and those serving the terms to help them reconnect with the society.
Nima Tshering was called by the organisation right after completing his detention terms. The organisation trained him in making organic juice for a week. “After my second release from the detention, I was kept engaged. It did not allow me to think about any other stuff.”
Nazhoen Lamtoen has set up another juice stall in Paro employing three other youth released from YDRC.
The organisation spent around Nu 50,000 to 100,000 to give individual skill development training. “Although they are given a job if it does not pay them well, they leave the job soon. It’s a big loss for us. While we are not able to reintegrate them, the expenditure on training and skill development becomes vain. So we support them to become a social entrepreneur,” said Thinley Tobgay.
The organisation plans to set youth one-stop shop at Mongar as a part of their reintegration initiative. The initiative is aimed at reducing rural-urban migration while they would give employment opportunities to the youth who are in difficult circumstances and in conflict with law. The one stop shop is expected to employ not less than 20 youth.
Nazhoen Lamtoen gives immediate shelter to children without parents or any guardian in times of need. However, the organisation is not able to give proper shelter with increasing number of youth and children seeking their support.
The organisation lacked potential to look for financial support without registration. Save the Children and voluntary contributions support them fulfill their mandates and to conduct programmes.
“Our concern before was to get registration. The sustainability of our service and keeping our social reintegration programmes constant are the challenges we face. We are not able to provide immediate support to those youth and children in need without temporary shelter,” Executive Director said. “While facilitating juveniles to get employed after release, one-year cooling period implied on them affects the reintegration initiative.”
As a part of preventive measure, the organisation conducts parenting programmes to prevent the youth and children to commit crimes and to reduce the number of children and youth in difficult circumstances. The organisation considers parenting important, as the future of children depend on how they grow up as a child.
Nazhoen Lamtoen conducted parenting programmes in primary schools. They provide training on parenting to teachers and counsellors.
Officer in Command at YDRC, Thinley said that the number of youth committing repeated offences were more in the year 2012 and 2013. “After Nazhoen Lamtoen started their aftercare and social reintegration services, there was a decrease in juveniles returning to the center. There were around 40-50 repeated offenders in the year 2012/13 and the number is reduced to around 20 -25 cases annually now.”
Three years down the line. Nima Tshering is making the best use of the second chance. He could win his life back as he is now back with his mother after ten years.
While he serves thirsty customers visiting the coronation park at the meadow of a 45feet tall statue of walking Buddha with his organic fruit juice, Nima Tshering also entertains his friends and customers with his amazing voice. The 22-year-old boy aims to find a future in his voice.
Reduce the number of youths and children in conflict with laws, and difficult circumstances.
Provide reintegration and after care services to the youth and children in conflict with laws
Support youth and children to live an independently
Create awareness on parenting
Eradicate discrimination and stigma attached to the substance users